Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan surprised his former teammate Scottie Pippen for Pippen’s 47th birthday party Monday night. Pippen’s wife, Larsa, planned the secret bash at Chicago hot spot Sunda. Bulls family, including team president Michael Reinsdorf and his wife, Nancy, NBA power broker William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, Antoine Walker, Ahmad Rashad, and new Bulls recruit and Chicago native Nazr Mohammed gathered to celebrate at the club with Pippen. Sources told us the fun night ended with a dance-off between Jordan and Pippen to the Trey Songz and Fabolous song, “Say Ahh.”
What? No word on who won the dance-off? My guess is Pippen got toasted. After all, Michael Jordan’s competitive nature and killer instinct are legendary. And remember those Hanes commercials he used to be in with Kevin Bacon? Bacon’s dancing skills speak for themselves…and I’d be willing to bet he taught MJ a move or two during breaks on their commercial shoots.
Or maybe not.
Also no word on whether Antoine Walker spent the party jacking up three-pointers. My gut tells me “yes.”
When Bulls training camp begins next week, center Kyrylo Fesenko will be there on a non-guaranteed contract, according to a league source.
Fesenko, a 7-foot-1-inch former second-round pick, has averaged 2.3 points and 2 rebounds in 135 career games with Utah and Indiana. He worked out for the Bulls on Monday.
The Bulls possess $758,550 under the hard salary cap of $74.307 million and thus can’t sign a 14th player like Fesenko for the season until a prorated amount of the veteran’s minimum of $854,389 drops to fit. That would be in late November.
Simply put…Fesenko is a notch over seven feet. And you can’t teach tall, right?
Unfortunately, Fesenko isn’t a very good player.
His total Win Shares over 135 career games is 0.9. His career PER is 8.5. According to the handy dandy reference guide, that ranks him between “Definitely Renting” and “Next Stop: D-League.” He’s a big man who does virtually all of his scoring around the basket and yet has compiled career True Shooting and Effective Field Goal percentages below 50.
Oh, and his Basketball-Reference similarity scores liken him to such end-of-the-bench immortals as Alan Ogg, Greg Kite, Mike Smrek and Stojko Vrankovic.
According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spent time this summer working with Joakim Noah, and Kareem “expects [Noah] to have expanded post game this season.”
There are 38,387 reasons to think Kareem knows how to score the basketball (hint: that figure represents the record he holds for the most total points in NBA history). That’s not Abdul-Jabbar’s only number one all-time ranking. He’s also the NBA’s career leader in Offensive Win Shares. (Rounding out the top five in that category are Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and…John Stockton. Bet you didn’t expect to see Stockton in the top five did you? Karl Malone is ranked sixth.)
And in case you suffer from the misconception that the Sky Hook was the only weapon in Kareem’s offensive arsenal, you should probably watch the following video:
There’s no question that the Sky Hook was Kareem’s go-to move, but he had others. Many others. Moreover, Kareem knew how to get position, developed an excellent sense of what the defense was giving him, and had both excellent footwork and a soft shooting touch. These are all keys to post play.
Kareem was also a solid offensive rebounder and a deft passer…skills Noah already has in abundance.
No, what Joakim needs (and what he needed to learn from Abdul-Jabbar) is improved scoring ability. Last season, Jo regressed as a scorer both in terms of points (from 11.7 in 2010-11 to 10.2 in 2011-12) and field goal percentage (from 52.5 to 50.9). According to Hoopdata, Noah converted only 58.7 percent of his shots at the rim, a dismal 34.6 percent of his shots from 3-9 feet and an embarrassing 21.7 percent from 10-15 feet. He did knock down 43 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet…but that’s not where you want your near-seven-footer shooting from unless his name is Dirk Nowitzki.
In addition to footwork and post positioning, Noah could also stand to develop more of a scorer’s mentality. Most of the time when Jo gets the ball, he’s thinking pass. With the way he hesitates, it seems like he regards shooting as a last resort.
A lot of that comes with confidence in one’s shooting ability and ability to just flat out score. I’ve never seen that from Noah. Which makes me wonder how much Kareem’s teaching can help him. I believe Noah can learn the skills, hone his shooting, continue to develop his hook, and so on. But can he adopt a scoring mindset?
The article produced some not-so-surprising results (the Spurs had the league’s “winningest” offense and Chris Paul was the top offensive player) and a few that were surprising (such as Charlotte’s even-worse-than-we-could-have-imagined offensive ineptitude and the fact that Tyson Chandler ranked as the league’s second-best offensive force).
From a Bulls perspective, it was somewhat surprising that Joakim Noah ranked as the league’s seventh-best offensive player behind only Paul, Chandler, Steve Nash, LeBron James, James Harden and Ryan Anderson.
I know we’ll get a little flack from this chart but it’s important to remember that offense is not just about taking shots. Passing the ball, getting the ball and keeping the ball matter too! Players like Joakim Noah, Kawhi Leonard and Tyson Chandler may not jump to mind when we think offense but it turns out their contributions can be quite valuable.
Now here’s where things get a little strange. Alvarez goes on to rank Chicago’s top five offensive players as Noah (by a country mile), Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose.
Seeing Noah and Korver ranked above Rose in offense seems somewhat reasonable. According to Basketball-Reference, they co-led the team in Offensive Rating at 120 points per 100 possessions (Rose was third at 112). Furthermore, Noah led the team in Offensive Win Shares at 4.9 with Rose coming in second at 4.1 (although Rose played 25 fewer games and was injured most of the season).
However, Asik ranked dead last in Offensive Rating — below even Brian Scalabrine — at 97 points per 100 possessions. Omer and Mike James tied for second-to-last in Offensive Win Shares at 0.1. And did I mention Asik has no hands (turnover rate of 25.2) and shot 45.6 from the free throw line?
So I have a slight problem with any metric that ranks Asik as the Bulls’ third-best offensive player.
It does not compute.
Especially when you consider what a devastating defensive force Asik is. If he were really that crucial to the Bulls’ offense as well as the defense…wouldn’t his PER be higher than 13.4? That’s below the league average.
Anyway, it’s more interesting information to toss on the pile. Just not sure I can agree with the notion of Asik-as-more-important-than-Rose-on-offense.
As anticipation grows for the 2012-13 season — Bulls training camp will open on Monday, October 1 by the way — Adidas has released the latest video chronicling Derrick Rose’s rehab efforts. This episode is titled FOCUS.
In case you’re too busy filling out TPS reports to watch the video, here are the words:
“I started playing basketball ever since probably, what? Four, three or four and ever since then I just like, always loved the game.
“When I was growing up my biggest thing was just getting to the league. I wasn’t thinking about shoe deals, or a gym shoe, or anything. I really saw what hard work can do for someone’s life.
“My biggest fight right now, I would have to say, is just stayin’ focused. Being patient because I’m impatient. If you think about it I never stop this is the only time in my life where I actually stopped playing basketball. Even in high school I was always going. Then thinking I was going to be able to play in the Olympics this year, it just killed my dreams.
“This injury gives me time to appreciate the people that’s around me. Be grateful for what I have. Just live life.
“I’m 23 but I’ve been in the league since I was 19 so just doing what you suppose to do, that’s all you have to do.
“Hard work pays off and I seen it actually pay off the year that I won MVP. I worked extremely hard so I know that all this stuff is going to pay off one day.
“It’s challenging, I’m just trying not to stop.”
Bulls head athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi:
“Derrick’s progress to date, and it’s excellent progress, has been driven by his focus on trying to get back. You know, it’s not so much necessarily his body chemistry that’s driving what’s going on I think it’s his mind and his, his, passion to get better.”
Said Rose: “My recovery has been good, where (I’m) rehabbing every day, five times out of the week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do lower and upper body and bike workout. I’m starting to shoot now, I started to jump a little while ago, like a couple of days ago, where I’m still improving every week. My leg does get sore sometimes, but I’m able to fight through it, but my trainers and the people that have been working on me have been making sure that I’ve been doing a great job … I’ve been good.”
Rose has come a long way since the May 12 surgery to repair the ACL he tore in Game 1 of the Bulls’ first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. There’s a mass consensus (as Miami’s Dwyane Wade would agree) that the Bulls aren’t going to compete without a title until Rose is back and at the top of his game, so updates about his rehab are big news around the Windy City.
Rose continued: ”(I didn’t) work on my core as much as I do now. Sit-ups, so many exercises that I do just to get my core together. That’s a huge part of getting back … basketball players don’t usually have to work on our core like that, because we work on our hips and weights. I’ve been working with my trainers, and they’re making sure I’m on top of that, and that my upper body is strong.”
Of course, life isn’t all rehabbing and getting stronger for Rose right now. As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times (and many other sources), Rose became choked up and cried yesterday during a promotional event for his new Adidas shoe. The tears flowed after video of Rose’s ACL injury was shown.
After he recovered, Rose said: “It’s truly a blessing, man. With all this stuff that’s going on in this city. A kid from Englewood has something positive going on. That makes me feel so good. The shoe is great. All this is great. I can’t explain this. I can’t. I went through so much. To have, like, true fans, that means a lot to me. And I know it means a lot to my family. Because we aren’t supposed to be here at all. But God made the way. This is truly unreal. I’m just happy to have true fans out there.”
I’ve mentioned this before recently, but this injury seems to have made Rose much more aware of his own mortality, certainly his mortality as a basketball player. He’s showing more emotion and willingness to put himself in the spotlight than ever before. When he eventually does return to playing, it will be interesting to see how coming back from adversity affects his game.
Russell is the league’s grand old lion…one of the greatest players and certainly the greatest winner in NBA history. The numbers speak for themselves: 11 championships in 13 seasons, including eight and a row at one point, and the last two won back-to-back as a player coach.
Russell has forgotten more about winning than most of us will ever know.
In the interview, Russell was asked a couple questions that resulted in him bringing up a couple Bulls players.
Regarding which of today’s players have the best basketball IQ, Russell said:
I would never say who is the smartest but there are some players who stand out. Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Those guys all know what they’re doing. They go out to do things, not to see what’s going on.
When asked about which of today’s players have the most pride, Russell eventually said:
Players today such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, LeBron, these guys are first and foremost team guys. A player who doesn’t get much attention and is one of my favorites to watch is Joakim Noah. The Bulls don’t utilize some of his skills. Not only is he a good rebounder but he’s an excellent passer. A good passer is more important to a team than a good shooter on offense. These guys are among my favorites to watch. I like to see if they can take a guy’s skills and have them contribute to winning.
These comments sync up well with what a lot of Bulls fans already felt about Rose and Noah. And I’ve thought for a while that the Bulls should take better advantage of Noah’s ball distribution skills. I’d like to see Joakim with the ball in the high post with lots of cuts and curls going on around him. He really is a fantastic passer who usually makes the right decision.
Chicago Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and coach Tom Thibodeau have resumed negotiations about a contract extension for Thibodeau, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The Bulls picked up Thibodeau’s option for the 2012-13 season after last season. General manager Gar Forman repeatedly has stated that it is the organization’s intention to lock up Thibodeau for the long term, even though talks stalled earlier in the summer.
The story includes this old quote from ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy:
“If I was (the Bulls) and Tom agreed to what (Oklahoma City’s) Scott Brooks got (a reported four-year deal worth approximately $18 million), the whole thing would take 25 seconds. It’s a no-brainer … My thing is he’s an elite coach and should be paid like one.”
The key term in that quote is “no-brainer.”
I can think of absolutely no reason why:
a) the Bulls wouldn’t immediately and without regret pay Thibs what he deserves and
b) this hasn’t gotten done already.
Think about it. Despite a variety of injuries to key players (Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng…), the Bulls had the league’s best record in each of Thibodeau’s first two seasons. And Thibs reached the 100-win mark faster than any coach in NBA history.
Faster than Pat Riley.
Faster than Gregg Popovich.
Faster than Phil Jackson.
Faster than Red Auerbach.
Riley had Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the Showtime cast.
Popovich had David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
(Although, to be fair, the Spurs tanked Pop’s first season to win the Duncan sweepstakes.)
Jackson had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the rest of the early 90s Bulls.
Auerbach had an All-Hall-of-Fame cast of Celtics led by Bill Russell.
Thibodeau had Rose and a cast of solid, hard-working, high-character players. The fact that Thibs has accomplished so much with a one-superstar limit is amazing. And based on many quotes (not to mention on-court performance), his players will walk through wall for him.
The Bulls need to spend the cash necessary to lock Thibodeau up long term. No question.
I wish they’d just do it and put this story to rest.